At the Reagan Library on Thursday, Gov. Mike Pence cast Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump in the mold of President Ronald Reagan. An unapologetic Reagan Republican, Pence effectively positioned Trump as the natural heir to the legacy of America’s fortieth president, reasserting the themes that Pence showcased during his acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention.
“There’s so much that’s different in terms of their style and background,” Pence acknowledged, but he posited that despite these differences, “there are fundamental similarities between these two men.”
Noting that both Reagan and Trump were “mocked and dismissed” by establishment talking heads as “little more than a celebrity and an entertainer who entered politics late in life,” Pence marveled at their ability to reach the American people over the heads of the elites and the media to carry their message.
The Indiana governor equated the Reagan Democrats of the 1980s to the Trumpocrats of 2016, and checked off key boxes for conservatives by noting similarities in Reagan and Trump’s economic policies and national security concepts.
Then the Hoosier state’s chief executive drove his point home with the Supreme Court, explaining that “while we’re electing a president for the next 4 years,” that president will fill enough seats on the nation’s highest court—starting with the seat left vacant by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia—that the American people are essentially electing “the Supreme Court for the next 40 years.”
“From the Supreme Court on down, we will appoint to the federal judiciary men and women who will strictly construe the Constitution of the United States, and not legislate from the bench,” Pence vowed.
“The role of the judge is to interpret the law,” the vice presidential nominee continued, rather than “preempt” the rights of voters and their elected lawmakers by deciding matters that the Constitution entrusts to the democratic process.
Trump “will appoint justices that will make the Reagan tradition proud on the Supreme Court,” Pence declared.
Trump’s poll numbers with Republicans are climbing. Reagan is extremely popular among Republicans, and conservatives in particular. Tying both men together could push Republican support for Trump close to the mid-90s, a percentage that would make a Trump-Pence victory likely.
Ironically, no public official in high office today better epitomizes Reaganism than Pence himself, as illustrated during his pitch-perfect acceptance speech at Cleveland’s convention.
“I’m a Christian, a conservative, and a Republican, in that order,” Pence began during the convention in July, highlighting his devout evangelical faith and uncompromising commitment to constitutional conservative principles and his determination to keep the Republican Party as the national party embodying Reagan’s three-legged stool of economic, social, and national security conservatives.
Pence has been using that line for more than a decade, and with the rest of his July speech, he set forth the same Reaganesque mold into which he cast the top of the ticket—Trump—in Simi Valley on September 8.
Trump’s running mate made numerous other statements in his Cleveland debut that were echoed in Thursday’s Simi Valley address.
For example, during his convention speech, Pence characterized Reagan as fond of saying that the American people “are tired of being told that a ‘little intellectual elite in a far-distant capital can plan our lives better for us than we can plan them for ourselves.’”
He spoke at the library about his modest upbringing and the centrality of family to his life, as he had done in Cleveland, where the Midwestern governor described his upbringing by saying, “For those of you who don’t know me, which is most of you, I grew up on the front row of the American dream. My grandfather immigrated to this country, and I was raised in a small town in Southern Indiana in a big family with a cornfield in the backyard.”
He praised his father and mother, said that the best thing that ever happened to him—even better than being nominated for the second-highest office in America—“is that 31 years ago, I married the girl of my dreams. … She’s everything to me,” he said, speaking of his wife Karen.
He gave fewer personal details when speaking at the Reagan Library, dedicating most of his words to the top of the ticket.
Pence went on to say during the convention that his most important job in life in spelled D-A-D, spoke about each of his children, then came back to the top of the ticket, saying of Trump’s extraordinary offspring, “And if you doubt what I’m saying, remember—as we say back home—you can’t fake good kids.”
He gave fewer personal details when speaking at the Reagan Library, dedicating most of his words to Trump. Yet even when introducing himself to the nation in July, Pence would then evaluate his running mate on that same topic. “I’ve seen this good man up close,” Pence had added in Cleveland, praising Trump’s “utter lack of pretense” and “his devotion to his family.”
In both speeches, he then pivoted to the economy. In Ohio, Pence took the traditional VP route of attacking the opposition, saying, “They tell us this economy is the best that we can do. It’s nowhere near the best we can do; it is just the best they can do.”
In California, he made more of a side-by-side comparison, touting that Indiana is one of only a dozen states with a AAA bond rating. This was similar to his line in Cleveland, that “while the nation suffers under the weight of $19 trillion in national debt, we in Indiana have a $2 billion surplus and the highest credit rating in the nation, even though we’ve cut taxes every year since I became governor.”
At the Reagan Library, he also spoke about securing the homeland, hearkening to his acceptance speech where he denounced Obama-Clinton policies under which, he said, “We have seen borders that go unrespected, a military that’s been diminished, and promise after ringing promise to our veterans, promptly forgotten.”
In contrast to such policies, Pence promised to the crowd in Cleveland, and restated in Simi Valley, that “Donald Trump will never turn his back on those who serve and protect us at home and abroad,” and that both of them “will always stand with those who stand on the thin blue line.”
Just as Pence quoted the Bible in Cleveland (specifically 2 Chronicles 1:10, Solomon’s prayer for a wise and discerning heart to rule well), at the Reagan Library, he mentioned that every morning he “cracks open the Old Book,” and then quoted Ecclesiastes, where it says, “There is nothing new under sun.”
Praising Reagan’s legacy and hailing Trump as a president who would restore American policy to follow in Reagan’s footsteps, Pence responded to the biblical verse by saying, “Boy, I sure hope so!”
At Cleveland’s convention, Pence’s final remarks about his running mate were:
Donald Trump gets it. He’s the genuine article. He’s a doer in a game usually reserved for talkers. And when Donald Trump does his talking, he doesn’t tiptoe around the thousand new rules of political correctness.
He’s his own man, distinctly American. Where else would an independent spirit like his find a following than in the land of the free and the home of the brave?
Much more tailored to his audience at the Reagan Library, the governor, instead, concluded with, “Let me promise you: Come November 8, you will see, the Reagan Revolution lives on!”